Turning game into art with taxidermy
Taxidermy is a way to preserve your memories. Your sonﾒs first buck, your hunting trip out west or the bear you hit with your car. But, it is much more than that for a taxidermist.
Itﾒs an art form.
Rick McCarty began his hobby in taxidermy at his dadﾒs side.
McCartyﾒs late father, Pete, wasnﾒt a taxidermist, but he did enjoy collecting furs.
ﾓIﾒve always been into furs,ﾔ McCarty said. ﾓMy dad collected fur and I helped him clean them. I just always had an interest in it.ﾔ
With so many years of experience, he has seen a lot of animals come in and out of his shop.
ﾓBear and deer are the most common, but Iﾒve done coyote, fish, bobcats, foxes, raccoons and turkeys,ﾔ he said. ﾓThe most unique animal Iﾒve had was a 2,300 pound Charolais Bull. It was for Sam Rader in Greenbrier County. It was just a shoulder mount, but it was still difficult.ﾔ
With all the game that hunters bring in, McCarty said there are a few that he canﾒt or will not mount.
ﾓIﾒm not licensed to do exotics or migratory birds,ﾔ he said. ﾓThere are several different types of taxidermy licenses. I only do wild game, except snakes and skunks.ﾔ
McCarty also mounts fish, which has become less common.
ﾓMost people mount fake fish because of the work it entails,ﾔ?he said. ﾓYou have to paint them to make them look realistic.ﾔ
He added that it is illegal to mount certain animals, which is another reason he only works with wild game.
ﾓHawks, owls or song birds are illegal to mount unless you are doing it for a museum or for an educational facility,ﾔ?McCarty said. ﾓIf you see a Bald Eagle laying on the ground, leave it alone. Even if you didnﾒt kill it, it is illegal to possess any part of a Bald Eagle. Donﾒt even pick up a feather.ﾔ
McCarty said that years of taxidermy has changed his views in many ways.
ﾓWhen I started, I thought I would like to have one of every species in the house, but now I donﾒt,ﾔ he said. ﾓMy wife likes to decorate with them [taxidermic animals], we have quite a bit.
ﾓDoing this work has taken hunting out of me, I use to really like to hunt,ﾔ he continued. ﾓI donﾒt hardly want to kill anymore.ﾔ
Moving from the woods to his shop, McCarty enjoys his art form, but says he sometimes finds himself in a predicament with the specimens brought to him.
ﾓPeople donﾒt realize the damage that can be done that I canﾒt fix,ﾔ he said. ﾓI advise [people to] be sure to call and check on cuts you should make if you know you want a mount. Itﾒs never good to cut the deerﾒs throat if you want to mount.ﾔ
McCarty adds that the animal has to be kept as cold as possible. If it is not kept in a freezer, it will spoil, including the skin.
ﾓThe hair will fall out if itﾒs not kept cold,ﾔ he said. ﾓTo freeze it, wrap it in plastic and it will keep for a decent amount of time.ﾔ
Another mistake to avoid is ear tags. When doing a full mount or head mount, the ears are turned inside out and cleaned before being placed on the form. McCarty said it is difficult to fill a hole made by a tag.
The best advice McCarty can give is for hunters to call ahead if they have any questions.
With 17 years of taxidermy under his belt, he has seen it all.